Authors Behaving Badly: The Desperately Seeking Attention Edition

MonkeysToday I read a column in a newspaper I won’t name about an author who trashed book clubs in general and in particular, the group of women who had invited her to visit their meeting and talk about her book. I don’t get it. If a book club decided to read one of my books and wanted me to speak with them, I’d be honored and thrilled. I’ve done it before, and I’d definitely do it again. After passion for writing, connection with readers is one of the biggest reasons I’m in this thing. So I didn’t understand this woman’s behavior. And then, sadly, I did. File this one under the clickbait folder—a provocative headline designed to entice you to click on over and get outraged enough to share it with your friends. And share, and share, and share.

I’m not playing. Not my circus, not my monkeys, as the wise old Polish ladies used to say. All that article did was invite me not to share that author’s article. Or buy her book. I’ve already forgotten her name.

I admit that getting attention—the good kind—is tough for an author. Look at all the things books are competing with: video games, binge-watching Orange is the New Black, social media, actually going out and spending time with other human beings. Some days I feel like the short guy at the end of the bar waving my five-dollar bill in the air—I’m attempting to make some noise, but I don’t think I’m ever getting my beer. So I can understand the temptation to do something a little crazy to get a few eyeballs. Desperation can lead to some pretty terrible things. (Believe me, I’ve binge-watched Orange is the New Black, too.) But I don’t want to do anything to risk alienating that connection.

It’s not a good look. Plus I’d probably feel the need for a shower afterward. So I’m not going to wrap myself in Saran Wrap printed with my book cover. I’m not going to accost people on the street and tell them my fictional children are starving. I’m not going to comment on critical reviews. I’m not even going to put one of those “ethical author” badges on my website. Nothing against the authors who do that—I completely believe in being ethical, and I like what the movement stands for. But when I see one of those, I can’t help hearing my father’s voice in my head: “Never trust a guy who says ‘trust me.’”

Maybe it’ll take a little longer to get my beer, but I’m sure it will taste a lot better.

What do you think about these kind of ploys? Fair game in a competitive, do-what-it-takes world? The fast train out of author-ville? I’d love to have a chat about this.

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Laurie Boris has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels with another on the way. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. See what’s on sale this month here.

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